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Planned Parenthood Keystone says it is open to recognizing union for non-medical staff

  • Gabriela Martínez/WITF
A Planned Parenthood of Utah facility in Salt Lake City.

 Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

A Planned Parenthood of Utah facility in Salt Lake City.

The Planned Parenthood chapter that runs eight nonprofit health care centers in central and eastern Pennsylvania says it will recognize union representation for its non-managerial staff members. 

Employees at Planned Parenthood Keystone are calling for job security, fair wages and better healthcare benefits.

The Keystone chapter says it is working with the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 32 to “voluntarily recognize them as the exclusive bargaining representative” for the group of employees.

“We are proud of everything we do to support our employees but also respect their right to pursue changes they believe are in their best interests – including third-party representation,” the organization said in a written statement.

Melissa L. Reed, MA, JD, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood at her office in Warminster, PA on Tuesday morning October 4, 2022.

Alejandro A. Alvarez / Philadelphia Inquirer

Melissa L. Reed, MA, JD, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood at her office in Warminster, PA on Tuesday morning October 4, 2022.

The unionization efforts are happening at a time where Planned Parenthood clinics across the country are seeing more patients, many of whom are traveling from states with abortion bans. Because of this challenging new landscape, many Planned Parenthood workers have turned to unions for support.  

The union would represent 41 employees including floating medical assistants, office and telehealth staff, gender-affirming care specialists, educators and community health workers. 

More than 75% of the non-professional staff – 31 employees – signed on to a letter requesting that Planned Parenthood Keystone CEO Melissa Reed voluntarily recognize their union. 

According to National Labor Relations Board guidelines, a proposed bargaining unit must have support from more than 50% of the workers to demand voluntary recognition. With 30% worker support, the proposed bargaining unit can file for election with the NLRB.

Organizers said their efforts were spurred in part by the layoffs of 17 employees last year.

Photo courtesy of Max Bienstock

A group of more than 30 Planned Parenthood Keystone workers are seeking union representation.

Alice Wehner, who has worked at Planned Parenthood Keystone for nearly seven years as a medical assistant, said they have seen a reduction of staff even as patient volume increased. Some layoffs, Wehner said, led to a reduction of the health provider’s gender-affirming program. 

“Over the summer that program was slashed, and a lot of the employees who were the medical care assistants working on that program were fired. who also happened to be queer and trans,” Wehner said.

Planned Parenthood Keystone said layoffs were due to  “chronic underfunding of sexual and reproductive healthcare, stagnant reimbursement rates, and increasing political attacks over the years,” which have created a challenging environment for the organization.

For Madison Prasol, a floating medical care assistant, health care is a main concern. She is unhappy that she was unable to qualify for long-term disability while she was undergoing breast cancer treatment. 

“I had to undergo the full gamut of treatment, chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy,” Prasol said. “I got the message that I had to come back, or I would be legally terminated while I was undergoing radiation, which was like my last step.”

She said she would face more financial hardship if she was on Planned Parenthood Keystone’s insurance, and her bills would be higher than what they are now.

“I’m paying out of pocket for COBRA because most of my doctors aren’t covered under Planned Parenthood’s insurance,” Prasol said. “If I switched to Planned Parenthood’s insurance right now, I’d have to change all of my doctors.”

According to Planned Parenthood, employees get up to 8 weeks of paid leave for family and medical needs. Short-term disability is up to six months, the nonprofit also provides long-term disability “to protect against loss of income due to a serious disability.” Employees also get health, dental, and vision coverage including “different plans that fit individual needs.” This also includes a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), funded by Planned Parenthood Keystone – $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families.

However, unaffordable health care is one of top grievances for Planned Parenthood Keystone employees looking to unionize, according to OPEIU Local 32’s announcement on Monday.

The nonprofit received $12.6 million in contributions and grants in 2022, more than $8 million than the year prior, according to tax filings. In March 2022, it received a $7.5 million donation from MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife.  

Reed, the affiliate’s CEO, makes $201,397 a year, according to ProPublica’s nonprofit explorer.

“I think across the board, our workers are overworked, underpaid, and understaffed and I have seen our patients suffer for it,”  Wehner said.

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